Child at dentist
A child at the dentist. Photo via pixabay

I’ve always thought teeth were high-maintenance. The process of brushing, flossing and gargling while ensuring you do your twice-a-year check-ups can be exhausting. Then, you have children and the work doubles. But, over the years, I’ve learned that dental care is about more than just aesthetics or having chompers to eat yummy foods — it’s about your overall health.

Now, my knowledge of dental care and more importantly, my children’s teeth, has increased thanks to the new book “If Your Mouth Could Talk” by local orthodontist and dentofacial orthopedist Dr. Kami Hoss. Hoss, who is also the founder of The Super Dentists, breaks down every piece of dental health from how it affects your breathing to your confidence to most importantly, your overall health. 

Here are a few snippets of what I learned about children’s teeth. 

  • Dental caries, the disease that causes cavities, is the most common chronic disease of children. And, children’s tooth decay is four times more common than early childhood obesity, five times more common than asthma, and 20 times more common than diabetes! 
  • Children in California miss 874,000 days of school every single year due to dental problems.
  • When your infant is teething, it’s best to stay away from medications and oral gels. Hoss recommends using safe teething rings that have been refrigerated (not frozen). But, he cautions to read about the product before giving it to your baby. In fact, the FDA issued a warning on teething necklaces after an 18-month-old was sadly strangled by one. 
  • Enamel on baby teeth is thinner than on permanent teeth and the pulp is larger so dental decay can spread to the nerve faster. Hoss recommends wiping your child’s gums and teeth with a wet cotton gauze after feeding to remove the sugar and bacteria that could cause decay. 
  • Hoss recommends considering seeing a pediatric dentist before your baby is born so you know what to expect. I actually wished I did this before my children were born because, by the time they arrived, it’s difficult to get caught up on learning. 
  • Finally, if you’re considering having a baby, go to the dentist for a check-up because unhealthy gums can actually lead to infertility! Hoss said the presence of a common periodontal bacteria in saliva that indicates poor oral health was three times more prevalent in women who did not become pregnant and was associated with a significantly increased risk of infertility. 
Kami Hoss, co-owner of The Super Dentists. Courtesy photo

After reading Hoss’s latest book, I had to ask him more questions about how to ensure your children receive the best dental care. Here’s what he said. 

How should parents decide what kind of dental insurance to get? Parents should evaluate the particular needs of each family member and get insurance that matches the needs. For example, if there is a child who may need orthodontic treatment soon, then it would be helpful if the insurance covered orthodontics. 

What do you recommend to parents who don’t have access to dental insurance? Should they set aside a certain amount of money each month for dental care? Parents should remember that for every $1 invested in preventive care (such as using the right oral care products and making brushing and flossing a priority) , they should expect savings of $8-$50 (an average of $30) in restorative care alone. As far as insurance, parents should look into their employer insurance packages and see if dental coverage can be included. For lower income families, Medicaid is available in California and many pediatric dentists (including The Super Dentists) accept that. Lastly, some dental offices have their own membership programs that work similarly to dental insurances. 

I’ve been told the general recommendation on how often to see a dentist is every six months. What’s your recommendation for children? Every 3-6 depending on the age and risk factors. This is a decision that should be made mutually by the parents and the pediatric dentist depending on the particular needs of the child. 

What should parents consider when choosing a pediatric dentist? Their reputation, how long they’ve been in practice, the technologies used in the office, the calming techniques they use, the training of the team members, the fun amenities that the office offers, the cost and payment options, and most importantly how much their child actually enjoys visiting since it’s important to build a positive association with their oral care from the beginning. 

How can you prepare a young child for a dentist, especially one with sensory challenges? Pediatric dentists are trained and equipped to see children with various needs. It’s important that parents talk with their children about going to the dentist in a positive way similar to when they take their child to a fun place like a restaurant or movies and not bring stress or anxiety to their appointments.

If Your Mouth Could Talk” is currently available on Amazon. For more information about Hoss, go to drkamihoss.com.

San Diego Moms is published every Saturday. Have a story idea? Email hoaq@timesofsandiego.com and follow her on Instagram at @hoawritessd.